Counting is an important skill we all learn at a young age. Learning how to count in Korean is naturally quite important. Counting in Korean follows two systems that are equally important. Here we explore one of them: Native Korean numbers.

Native Korean Numbers

Learning how to count in a new language is often difficult, but learning how to count in Korean might be even more difficult. Koreans are not content by having one counting system. No, they need to have 2 counting systems: Sino-Korean numbers and native Korean numbers. Today we are going to focus on native Korean numbers.

As the name implies native Korean numbers were the original numbers with which the Koreans counted. These numbers are used often in daily life to count a variety of things. However, these days it is enough to be able to count from 1 to 100 in native Korean, past 100 the number joins into 1 system: Sino-Korean numbers.

Most learners such as myself often struggle with deciding when to use the native Korean numbers. In essence the rule is this: When the thing you are counting uses a so-called counting noun to count, you use native Korean numbers.

Native Korean Numbers

Counting nouns

Counting nouns, called 수분류사, are used to count tangible objects and events. There is a long list of different counting nouns and all of them are used to count specific types of things. It is also important to note that these counting nouns that are like their base meaning. Take 장 for example. 장 is used in the first place to count sheets of paper. However, you can also use it to count other objects that are paper-like such as tickers (which are small pieces of paper) or the leaves of a tree.

I made a little graphic with a list of counting nouns. This list is not complete. There are still quite a few counting nouns out there for you to discover. If you know a counting noun not mentioned, let us know in a comment.

Korean Counting Nouns

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Nick is a someone who enjoys exploring new and different things. 2 years ago when he met his Korean friends he decided to go for it and learn Korean. Now he is struggling with the language while sharing an apartment with his Korean roomie.

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